Coming to Cambodia was not easy. Well, it could have been easy if you were not on your toes and watching out for every scam imaginable. Instead, if you want to pay the proper price, you have to watch your back, consider every move and suggestion, and be generally vigilant. It also helps if someone explains the things to watch out for ahead of time. The border crossing and the route between Bangkok and Siem Reap (where Angkor Wat is found) at Poi Pet is one of the most scam infested journeys I have ever been on.
It all starts out innocuously enough when the train drops you off close to the border in Thailand. You hop into a tuk-tuk and head for the border. Then the tuk-tuk drops you off at a Cambodian visa agency where you pay for your visa processing. Do you go for it? If you do, you will overpay, by at least 100%. You wave them away and tell the tuk-tuk driver to take you to the proper border. Cambodian visas are given on arrival on the Cambodian side of the border. Armed with this knowledge you hopefully continue on saving yourself a good $20.
Leaving Thailand is easy and you get your passport stamped, pay any fines if you overstayed your visa, and continue on foot to the casino-filled inter-country zone. This is where they try to get you next, but you don’t even know it. Smooth talking men who guide you along the way. No scam yet. They will pull the rabbit out of the hat later. Unless that is, you agreed to buy their private taxi ride from them already and handed them the payment.
The next one surprised us as we were not wanted about it. We enter the visa office to get our Cambodian visa. The tourist visa fee is $20 for a single entry visa. However, the man asks for $20 and 100 baht per person. What is the 100 baht? Some mumble-mumble fees. Just be firm and say you are not paying the extra 100 baht and everything should go smoothly. Ask them for some written proof of the fee. As soon as we protested, you could see the man’s eyes give him away for the liar he was. Another $3 saved.
We entered Cambodia with out brand new visas and now it was time to get transport to Siem Reap. It’s about 130km. The man who has been walking with you since you walked out of Thailand now pitches his taxis. They are of course more expensive then the normal taxis which are found a short walk down the street. We made a mistake of lingering around too long, and even though we finally were able to find a taxi driver to take us for $30, the police and the scammer from the taxi mafia had already hustled our driver for a bribe.
The drive through the most mine infested piece of the world was uneventful. However, the constant overtaking, honking, and bright lights from oncoming cars made sleep impossible.
Our taxi driver took us to a gas station where helpful tuk-tuk drivers were willing to help us find a hotel “for free.” Once again, firm and resolute, we told our driver to just bring us to the hotel we had named earlier, as who knows what sort of home we would end up with going with the tuk-tuk drivers.